We've got Balls, and now so do you 

Despite being a controversial figure, Barry Bonds will have an expanded role with the Giants this season. - AP FILE PHOTO
  • AP file photo
  • Despite being a controversial figure, Barry Bonds will have an expanded role with the Giants this season.

Strange how Balls bounce sometimes, isn't it?

It was a few years ago — OK, more than a few years ago – that a certain sports-crazed Chicago kid had a serious hoops addiction. Two times zone removed, in need of a life, I would even attempt to pick up my favorite NBA team on radio late at night. Yep, the Warriors. Darn if I didn't hear the voice of the late, great Bill King through the static some 2,000 miles away, I kid you not.

So imagine what it was like for me to be at Oracle Arena the other night, only days after I had left the Windy City for The City, just in time to witness the celebration of the 1974-75 Warriors team that I had admired so much back in the day. (Cue Twilight Zone theme here.) I mean, it was almost was if the basketball gods had invited me to the reunion.

The whole thing is surreal, I tell ya.

The move couldn't have come at a better time because Bay Area sports are about as good as they've been in a long time. The Giants are the Champs, and the Warriors hope to be soon. Better yet, both have the bucks and the brains to contend for a long time. The Athletics are the Dead End Kids, always gritty, never dull. The Raiders and the 49ers are ... are ...

Best of all, the kid who grew up to be a sportswriter gets to cover them all for a newspaper that has a great tradition and visions to match, not to mention a really cool masthead. And he gets to do it in one of the most unique, complex and compelling cities in the world.

Now, here are the rules of the daily column we'll call Balls: I'll tell you what I think. You'll tell me what you think. We'll try to be fair and accurate. Nobody gets a free pass. And we'll have fun while we do it.

Play Balls!

JUST DON'T DO IT: Eight years after his retirement as a player, Barry Bonds is about to become an even bigger pain in the asterisk. The Giants say they have plans to expand his role in the organization, to which I have a two-word response: For what?

Why, oh why would the Champs want to dredge up their dark past at the best time in franchise history, when their image is so positive and the vibe is so upbeat?

At a time when Major League Baseball needs to distance itself from the Steroid Era, I can't think of one reason why it wants to welcome back the dirtbag who has done more to destroy the game than any person in recent history, if not ever. The start of the baseball season should be full of hope and innocence. It should be a positive experience, a place for fans to smell the fresh grass and soak in the sunshine. Now, the sight of one person will dump manure on all that. More than one young fan around the country will be sure to ask, "Daddy, who's Barry Bonds?"

Rather than attempt to explain every sordid detail, it's best to have the kid read "Game of Shadows" when he gets a few years older. That's where Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams tell all we need to know about Bonds and his evil ways. In vivid detail, the book outlines how he absorbed everything from basic steroids to custom-made drugs, all of which allowed him to drive baseballs into McCovey Cove at a record clip, make an absolute joke of the record book and pull the wool over the public at the same time.

Oh, but haven't you heard — this is the new Barry, we're told. Now, he's within three zip codes of a personality, rumor has it. Why, just the other day, he allegedly treated someone like a human being. Gimme a break. If Bonds has softened up even the slightest, then it's only because it doesn't pay to be a complete jerk any more. The whole thing reeks of a guy who desperately needs an image makeover, as if that can ever happen this late in the game. He needs baseball a whole lot more than baseball needs him.

PRICE OF SUCCESS: For the most part, the Giants stood pat last off-season. More recently, general manager Brian Sabean said no moves were in store for the injury-ravaged outfield that lost Hunter Pence to a fractured left forearm earlier this spring.

I've got no problem with that. The Champs deserve the benefit of any and all doubts at this early stage. But August and September could be an entirely different story.

As Forbes magazine reported last week, the Giants are worth a fat $2 billion. Or almost enough to lease an apartment by the Embarcadero for one year. They trail only the New York Yankees ($3.2 billion), the Los Angeles Dodgers ($2.4 billion) and the Boston Red Sox ($2.1 billion) in the major leagues.

In other words, the honeymoon is over in China Basin.

If the Giants are in the playoff race before the trade deadline, team management should be expected to pursue every reasonable option to improve the team regardless of cost. No excuses. The fans deserve as much.

BEWARE THE SPURS: The Warriors-Grizzlies showdown on Friday night was widely advertised as a sneak preview of the Western Conference finals. Don't believe it. It's the San Antonio Spurs who should concern the Warriors and their fans at the moment.

Sure, the Marc Gasol-Zach Randolph tag team has the potential to put the Warriors in a vice hold in the playoffs. But the Grizzlies are limited offensively, especially at the three-point line. And like Steve Kerr, head coach Dave Joerger has scant postseason experience at his current position.

Many wrote off the Spurs months ago. Bad idea. Nothing the Spurs do in the regular should be taken seriously, and I do mean nothing. Their season starts in three weeks, and when it does, they'll have all that depth and all that know-how, not to mention Gregg Popovich, too.

Be careful what you wish for, Warriors fans. Be very careful.

JUST SAYIN': Fitting that WrestleMania comes on Sunday to Levi's Stadium, home of the Phony-Niners, isn't it?

THE LIST: WrestleMania blood matches that Balls would actually pay to see:

n Bonds vs. World. (Projected winner: World)

n Sabean vs. Pablo Sandoval. (Sabean)

n Draymond Green vs. Doc Rivers. (Green)

n Jim Harbaugh vs. Trent Baalke. (Harbaugh)

n Lew Wolff vs. the Supreme Court. (Supreme Court)

n Joe Thornton vs. Doug Wilson. (Double disqualification)

Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? (A compliment?!) Send to pladewski@sfexaminer.com, and you may get your name in the paper one day.

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